-Excerpt VI: Hyena Subpoena, cd/book (2014)

Flashing back to junior high, Mona reflects on the pack mentality of the Junior Girls Lacrosse Team who bully Mona and her best friend Molly for being ‘weird.’

  1. School of Hard Knock-Knock Jokes Cat Kidd

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SCHOOL OF HARD KNOCK-KNOCK JOKES

John Cleese and John Lennon have a few things
in common, both being British, born around 1940,
and well-beloved by you and your best friend Molly
when you were in the eighth grade.
Each is additionally the indirect cause of your nearly
getting beaten up by the Junior Girls’ Lacrosse team
on one occasion, and quite thoroughly beaten up on
another.

The Junior Girls’ Lacrosse team hate you, and your
best friend Molly, too, ever since they caught the two
of you practicing John Cleese’ Silly Walks in the
parking lot after school. Cameron Dowd,
Kelly Boudreau and them corner you and want
to know What kind of freekin’ rejects are you,
anyhow? No, they’ve never heard of Monty Python’s
Flying Freak Show, one of them said, the other wants
to know if you’ve ever heard of a punch in the head.

But this first altercation turns out rather well.
You and Molly simply wrestle free and run like hell,
it’d been such a saving grace in so many ways to have
met each other. Molly’d just walked right up to you
on the first day of school, heard you were a bit of
a weirdo, she said, which was cool because people said
that about her, too. Molly wore a purple sweater vest,
had shoulder-length hair the colour of prairie wheat,
bright blue eyes and very straight teeth with shiny
silver braces on them. Her grandparents came from
Ukraine and she was going to be a famous painter
some day. She could draw better than anybody.
Horses, dogs, ladies, you name it. You loved to draw,
too, but certain things like perspective and proportion
just didn’t come naturally to you. It was Molly who’d
even introduced you to the Beatles in the first place,
and now Beatle-music was the best thing in your life
besides Molly.

So the year is 1980 and Molly turns thirteen years
old today. She makes chocolate cake in a bag, like in
the Ballad of John & Yoko, for the two of you to eat
seated cross-legged, backs against lockers at lunch
time. But before you even reach recess, this gaggle of
grinning eighth-graders is singling you out, to tell you
some info they hope will upset you.
They want to know if you’ve heard the news yet,
that Jack Lemmon has just been shot.

At the age of twelve, you’re not even sure who
that person is – you reckon some Hollywood actor
of your parents’ generation, but the gentleman you’re
picturing in your head is not Jack Lemmon, but
Walter Matthau instead. You think it’s depressing
that someone would shoot some old actor, but why are
they telling this to you in particular?

The disappointed boys submerge into the migration
of students streaming down the halls, and it isn’t until
later that afternoon you and Molly learn the truth.
It’s all over the news, radio and television, swarming
like a virus. It crackles into every ear leaving
emptiness in its wake, into which empty space flows
music like a healing balm. You stay on the phone
with Molly all night, sniffling to radio station vigils
by candlelight.

A few weeks later there’s a series of noon-hour
symposiums in the school auditorium. Any student
who wishes to could stand up at a podium in front of a
microphone and rattle on about whatever topic stokes
them. One girl spends the whole hour extolling Mike
Reno of Loverboy, while another boy wears a bed
sheet and models his symposium after those of ancient
Greece. Then another kid talks really quietly about
why divorce should be illegal.

You convince yourself this is your opportunity to do
some good in the name of global peace and harmony,
so you put together a little speech about ahimsa,
Mahatma Gandhi, and the history of non-violent
resistance – closing with a coda about John Lennon
and the irony of that deluded gunman citing Catcher
in the Rye
as writing inciting his misguided mind to
violence. But just as you’re about to close, someone
calls out from the very back row, Wait!
There’s something they’re just dying to know.

The voice steps out into the light and –
Oh cripes, it’s Cameron Dowd and Kelly Boudreau.
And Cameron says, “So – Are you saying that if some-
body punched you right in the face, you wouldn’t even
punch back?”
And you think, Dang, I’m screwed. You can’t just drop
John Lennon and now Mahatma Gandhi, too, like
a pair of pacifist hot potatoes, so all you can really do is say No.
“No, Cameron, I would not punch that person,” you
say and try to mean it, but all you can feel is personal
doom descending like a heavy velvet curtain.

If you gain a bit of wisdom, then fail to act in accordance with
it, does the wisdom go away again or are you just a hypocrite?
If you’re not even good as your word then you’re not
worth spit, so you reckon you better get on with it and
finish the speech by making a peace-sign to the three
people still listening, then beating a hasty retreat
out the backstage door and onto the soccer green.

But it’s too late – the Junior Girls’ Lacrosse team
is already heading you off at the pass –
a sort of fox-and-hound scenario at the double-doors
behind the drama class – with Amazonian Kelly
Boudreau leading the pack with the battle cry,
“We are so going to kick your ass!” But it’s saddening,
half a dozen jocks versus one vegetarian pacifist,
so after they’ve all had a chance to rough you up a bit,
most fall back – leaving just Cameron Dowd, standing
over you blocking out the clouds, asking again if
you’re sure you don’t want to change anything you said?
Again you say No, so Cameron winds back
and clouts you right in the head.

And it came to pass that whacks in the head
became closely associated with a number of significant
life events, as though your skull were so thick you
needed to be literally clouted into the next level of sense.
You found sense of humour to be a saving grace –
you take the original long sad story, and replace it
with something short and pithy as a flounder to the
face. You come to see that that which nearly kills
you can become hilarious, eventually, and to view life
as like an old old movie, in shaky black & white with
rickety piano, from those bygone days of silent film
when it was just plain funny when somebody takes a
tumble down three flights of stairs, or his pants catch
on fire, or he’s beaten repeatedly about the head and
shoulders by the parasol of an irate dowager.

Such primitive methods of advancing plot have been
known more commonly than not as slapstick comedy –
named after the battacchio, a slapping stick with a flap
which inflicted more sound than fury on thespians of
Commedia Dell’Arte, who struck one another with it.
Since as long ago as the 16th Century, the battacchio
has enabled actors to beat each other silly while
causing very little actual physical damage, and so
for the theatre, reduced liability.

There’d been similar instruments back in the
institution, made of the same squidgy styrofoam as
swimming noodles. You were supposed to whack your
case worker with it when he was really getting under
your skin – but in too controlled an environment to
accomplish much of anything. Whereas, your own
whacks to the head had been genuine article –
as though you’d been one of those jukeboxes which
just doesn’t play, until some karmic guru comes and
whacks it in just the right way.